Headshot Tips: Getting Ready For Your Portrait Session
Choosing clothing for headshots
What to wear for a professional headshot
When choosing clothing for your professional headshot: think classic. Pick your favorite suit that fits you well and is preferably a classic dark color like navy blue or gray. Choose a professional suit or business-oriented outfit that has a classic look: you shouldn’t be able to tell what decade it is in the photo. Don’t choose anything with bold, distracting patterns or colors, unless you can layer a plain blazer or sweater over it so not much of the pattern is showing and you get just a pop of color.
Try to stay away from anything with bold, distracting patterns or colors. Clothing with really tight grids or a small herringbone pattern can have a moiré pattern effect on camera, so stay away from tight grid-like patterns. Thin stripes that are a little further apart are okay. Ties look best when their tone lands between the suit and the shirt– so a light shirt, a dark suit, and a tie in a shade somewhere between them. Some ties are too shiny– try to stay away from really reflective, shiny, silk ties.
If you don’t wear a tie, choose a non-white shirt if possible: white shirts without a jacket and tie to break them up can lose detail in the color and folds. And if you wear a button-down shirt, it’s best to wear a jacket or sweater of some kind to layer the look. If not, choose a darker color shirt or something with pockets or details to avoid it looking like a head floating on a blank, boxy shirt, and unbutton a button or two. And make sure we can’t see your undershirt beneath the button-down shirt: wear a v-neck or no undershirt at all.
Clothing with tight grids or a small herringbone pattern can have a moiré pattern effect on camera, so stay away from grid-like patterns. Thin stripes are okay.
For jewelry, go for something small, classic, and not very reflective or flashy. Earrings shouldn’t dangle more than an inch from your earlobe. Simpler is always better, so if we notice your jewelry before we notice your face, we may ask you to remove any excess jewelry.
Choosing clothing for photos when you're not wearing a suit
Clothing rules are meant to be broken, but one rule stands: it shouldn’t distract from your face. Choose something in a flattering color with a flattering neckline, and no logos, distracting patterns (classic or subtle patterns are okay), or lots of sequins/glitter, etc. choose something classic and simple.
Looks we love
Makeup: do it yourself or hire a make-up artist?
If you do your makeup yourself, do your makeup how you usually wear it for an average day, or possibly a nice dinner where the steak is $30 but not $75. Do not wear heavy makeup; a close headshot will show clumps of mascara or dark lipstick. Choose light to medium eyeliners, eye shadows, and lipsticks that are only a shade or two darker than your skin tones. This brings your features out in a subtle manner without making it look like you’re wearing lots of makeup. Avoid caking on heavy foundation, or wearing shiny eye shadows or lip gloss: too much shine is distracting on camera and looks wet.
Skin blemishes, pimples, and even wrinkles can be retouched. It’s not cheating. We promise.
How much is too much makeup for a headshot? Everyone is different, so it depends on how much make-up you usually wear: you want your headshots to be easily recognizable as how you generally look in person. For some people, that means wearing your make-up exactly how you usually wear it, for others it’s wearing a little more, for others a little less. If you don’t wear much makeup every day, don’t do your makeup like Kim Kardashian for your photos.
Should I hire a make-up artist?
We’re often asked if we recommend having a hair and makeup artist present for your session, and our answer is always, “it’s up to you.” You know yourself best and your own makeup routine and abilities. We normally recommend makeup artists for people who barely wear any makeup or wear no makeup at all, if you have uneven or blotchy skin, if you can never get your hair to sit right for a photo, if you’ve never liked the way your makeup has photographed in the past, or if you just want that extra bit of insurance for your photo session.
There’s a more extensive breakdown here of who benefits the most from having a pro stylist on site for their headshot. (And while we’re at it, here’s the answer to the question: should I tip the makeup artist?) We work with makeup artists who specialize in headshots and have been trained in makeup specifically for print and motion photography. They will work with you to talk through how much makeup you usually wear, what colors and tones, and will build upon your usual look to make it photo-ready. The goal is for you to look like you, but for your features to pop and you look naturally beautiful.
Here’s an example of what professional makeup looks like on camera. The first images are of our two brave volunteers with no makeup, then with makeup they applied themselves and their hair how they normally wear it. The final photo was taken after a professional hair and makeup artist applied their makeup and styled their hair. No retouching was done to the photos below.